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Trial opens in robber's slaying

A jury is selected in the trial of a downtown restaurant owner who is accused of fatally running down a robber.

Published August 1, 2006

TAMPA — Attorneys picking the jury Monday for the Lawrence Storer manslaughter trial looked for panel members who could be fair and impartial.

So it was no surprise that a woman who once was robbed at her gift shop didn’t make the cut.

“I went after him. You don’t think sometimes,’’ the potential juror said during questioning in court. “You just think it’s yours.”

That case too closely paralleled the one prosecutors are trying to build this week against Storer, who on Oct. 29, 2003, was robbed at gunpoint outside his downtown restaurant, Sumos Thai.

They say Storer, in his SUV, went too far when he tracked 24-year-old Shantavious Wilson down a few streets away and fatally struck him with the vehicle. Storer faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

By Monday afternoon, prosecutors and defense attorney John Fitzgibbons settled on a jury panel of 10, six jurors and four alternates.
Prosecutor Jalal Harb started the morning by telling 80 potential jurors that it was not wrong to have an opinion. Too strong an opinion, however, got people booted.

Among those not chosen:

- A woman who eats at Sumos Thai regularly and interacts there with Storer, its 35-year-old operator.

“Can you keep an open mind?” Harb asked.

She wasn’t sure how she would feel about that.

- A woman held at gunpoint during a robbery at a bank where she worked.

- Fifteen people who said they had formed opinions about the case after reading or seeing information about it in the news media.

Then there was the man who said he was willing to find the defendant guilty if the evidence supported it but also believed Storer might be proven innocent. Part of a juror’s job is to listen to both sides, he said.

When opening statements begin this morning, that man will be listening from the jury box.

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at (813) 226-3337 or

[Last modified August 1, 2006, 22:03:53]

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